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McDonald Wages “Mc” Battle Worldwide

April 24, 1988 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ When McDonald’s renewed a legal battle to force a vegetarian fast-food joint named McDharma’s to drop the ″Mc″ prefix, it was the latest in some 50 ″Big Mc″ attacks by the giant corporation since 1975.

In an effort to protect its prefix, McDonald’s has embroiled itself in the court wranglings against other companies who attempt to use ″Mc″ or ″Mac″ in their business and product names, according to Adweek magazine.

Some owners of those companies believe the fast-food king of the Big Mac has gone too far.

″McDonald’s is just this big, giant bully,″ said Robin Holler, a spokeswoman for Quality Inns International, which is suing McDonald’s for alleged harassment in Quality’s proposed McSleep lodgings. McDonald’s objects to the name.

″Who are they to think they have the right to own a prefix?″ Holler said. ″A lot of Scottish people would be upset if they have to take the ‘Mc’ off their name. We feel they are overextending their boundaries.″

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. has taken on McSleep, Molly McButter, a butter substitute from Alberto-Culver Co., and McTravel, a Chicago travel agency, in pending lawsuits.

Businesses in Australia, Yugoslavia and Israel also have been targeted. Other cases have been resolved without formal proceedings, said John Horwitz, McDonald’s senior corporate attorney.

McDonald’s contends it has an enormous investment in its trademarks. The company says it’s the most advertised brand in the world.

McDonald’s motive in dealing with trademark problems is to protect its reputation for quality by guarding against consumer confusion, said Horwitz.

Another motive, Horwitz said, is ″policing″ its mark, so they don’t turn into unprotected generic terms under a legal doctrine of ″use it - and protect it - or you lose it.″

Legal experts agreed that these are legitimate aims.

″The principal asset of these franchises is their trademark, their reputation,″ said Geoffrey Miller, associate dean and business law professor at the University of Chicago law school.

McDonald’s says its registration of a multitude of ″Mc″ and ″Mac″ names gives it exculsive use of all such names ″in the food areas in which we operate and in all other areas in which we operate, such as distribution of toys, premiums, clothing and other areas,″ said Horwitz.

McDonald’s says it has more than 5,000 product and service marks registered in 110 foreign countries and about 500 marks in the United States, including some 100 that have ″Mc″ or ″Mac.″

The giant company recently renewed a court battle against McDharma’s Natural Fast Foods of Santa Cruz, Calif. McDonald’s sued in federal court in San Jose because Dharma’s owners - after losing a trademark-registratio n attempt in which it agreed to drop the ″Mc″ and accept compensation - left the prefix on its sign and superimposed the ″circle-slash″ symbol for ″no″ over it.

In another local case, McDonald’s persuaded former San Francisco restaurant McSushi to change its name.

Andy Tonozuka of San Francisco said he couldn’t afford to fight for the name McSushi but is happy with his restaurant’s new name, We Be Sushi.

″I don’t have any offensive feeling toward McDonald’s at all,″ Tonozuka said. ″But I learned a great deal about capitalism. Money is stronger than anything here.″